Written by. Nick Mosier based on the original Japanese article (original article’s publication date: 2022-08-01 00:05 JST)
Game developer qureate released a new rhythm game called beat refle to Steam on August 1 (JST). It is the PC version of the delayed Nintendo Switch title Massage Freaks. The release date for the Switch version has yet to be announced.
beat refle is a game that sees players massage girls in time to music. The protagonist Atsushi Yubihara is cleaning his late grandfather’s massage parlor when he meets a talking cat named Momiji. At the same time, debt collectors show up to take back the money Atsushi’s grandfather owed and leave him with just one month to pay it back. From there, Atsushi takes over the massage parlor and massages girls with worries of their own as he works to pay back his grandfather’s debt.
Atsushi makes use of a special massage technique that is taught to him by Momiji. This technique allows Atsushi to massage to the rhythm of the music his customers subliminally want to hear to heal them both inside and out. By pressing the appropriate buttons in time with the music, players will massage to the rhythm. The game contains 50 songs and allows players to meet customers outside of the parlor to hear more of their stories, see different sides of the characters, and experience unexpected events.
The Steam page contains gameplay footage making it the first look we’ve had of actual gameplay. There are two circles with notes that run along dotted lines towards them. Players will press the appropriate buttons as the notes overlap with the circle, with the girls being massaged in the background.
There are also held notes that make use of the L and R sticks, and of course, your accuracy is judged based on your timing with the music. And as the songs progress, the girls will cut in with their own comments as you massage other parts of their bodies.
The girls will also be more and more exposed and breathe more heavily as you progress. As you can see in the images above, the visuals in the background can get pretty risqué. There’s also NTR Mode which you enter after obtaining a certain score. In this mode, the girls lay their hearts bare as players are able to massage their entire bodies. They are also completely naked, but the game describes this as a spiritual representation of the girls baring their hearts and says they aren’t actually being massaged in the nude.
These provocative elements are the same as the Nintendo Switch title Massage Freaks. However, the official website for beat refle warns that to enjoy the girls’ clothing getting more revealing or NTR Mode, a special patch is required.
Before Valve allowed adult games on Steam, developers had to resort to distributing patches outside of the platform that unlock restricted content in games, and it looks like beat refle is using the same method while making the game itself accessible to underage users. The patch distribution page on the game’s official website states that the patch improves the behavior of clothing during the rhythm game and lets players enjoy a minigame if a certain score is obtained during the rhythm game.
Massage Freaks, the Nintendo Switch version of the game, was scheduled to release on August 4 (JST) but was delayed indefinitely on July 22. As for why it was delayed, qureate didn’t give a concrete reason, saying it was “the result of discussions between relevant parties.”
However, when the game was announced, it was quick to receive backlash for its provocative elements and visuals with some saying it shows discrimination against women, is a sexually exploitative game, and reminds some of sexual crimes that have recently occurred at massage parlors in Japan. There were also voices on social media that were critical of those who were critical of the game.
On top of this, the names of the female characters receiving the massages were the same as members of the idol group Hinatazaka46 (though the last names were different). qureate has since apologized for the “careless references for their character names” and have already changed them (related article).
And now, after all of that, there is a Steam version of the game called beat refle. The Steam page for the game contains warnings saying, “All characters involved in sexual content are over the age of 18,” “This game is not intended to incite or encourage crime. Do not imitate,” and, “It contains content that is not for all ages.” The official website also displays similar warnings and asks for a confirmation when it is accessed.
The official beat refle website is basically the same as the currently unavailable Massage Freaks website but the Japanese version of the site replaces the word massage in its descriptions. It looks like they were careful about responding to criticism they received over the game when it was announced.
While there is a patch to remove restrictions, what’s depicted in the game is largely preserved. As the Nintendo Switch version remains in limbo, qureate was likely working to bring the game to another platform.